Kinney Lab Discovers Links Between Flu, Schizophrenia

August 6th, 2004

Using blood samples of pregnant women saved at Columbia University for almost 40 years, Dennis Kinney, Ph.D., Director of the Genetics Laboratory, has found that women whose blood contained antibodies to the flu virus had children with a risk factor for developing schizophrenia that is three times higher than normal.

Earlier studies suggested the same connection, but were less reliable because the research studied whether the mothers of schizophrenic patients were pregnant during known flu outbreaks, or relied on the mothers' recollections of whether they had the flu. Although the group of 89 women studied by Kinney was too small to be statistically significant, in the context of previous research, the new data strongly supports the growing body of evidence linking the theory that environmental events during the perinatal period may increase the risk of subtle changes in brain development, leading to disorders that may not become apparent for decades.

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